Joseph O'Brien took over as chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association on Monday, Feb. 8. He also vowed to take on the federal government.
During his inaugural speech, O'Brien asked import dealers to join him and AIADA in their fight against legislation that unfairly targets the import auto industry.
O'Brien was installed at the AIADA annual meeting, which was held in San Francisco in conjunction with the National Automobile Dealers Association convention. He said he plans to spend much of his year as AIADA chairman in Washington, D.C., lobbying for causes of concern to import dealers. He is urging dealers to get to know their members of Congress.
'AIADA will never allow the government to take our business away from us without the fight of their life,' said O'Brien, president of O'Brien Automotive Team, headquartered in Normal, Ill. O'Brien has 23 franchises representing 13 nameplates at nine locations in Illinois and Florida.
'Five years ago I thought other people did this. They don't. We do. You do. I do. If you don't care enough about your future and your business to become involved, then why do you expect anyone else will?'
O'Brien, 48, said he and AIADA members have their work cut out for them.
For example, when various industries get into fights with other countries over trade issues, the federal government winds up slapping tariffs on vehicles imported from those countries, he said.
The auto industry often is targeted, O'Brien said, because vehicle sanctions are easy to enforce and because vehicles add up a lot faster than widgets.
'When rice farmers had a complaint against Japan, whose products did they target? Ours,' he said.
'When the U.S. got into a trade dispute with Brazil over computer chips, whose products did they target? Ours. Whenever there is a trade dispute between the U.S. and any of the countries that source our cars, we are going to be a target.'
Other AIADA officers who were installed on Feb. 8:
Chairman-elect: Barbara Vidmar of Vidmar Motor Co. (Chrysler-Honda- Jeep-Mazda-Oldsmobile-Plymouth-Volkswagen) in Pueblo, Colo.
Vice chairman: Richard Kull of Burns-Kull Automotive Group (Acura-Buick-Cadillac-Chevrolet-GMC-Honda-Oldsmobile-Pontiac-Subaru-Toyota) in Marlton, N.J.
Secretary/Treasurer: Don Reil-ly of Fairfax Hyundai in Fairfax, Va.